PSU seeks ad firm to shape school identity

The Integrated Marketing Taskforce completed the first round of interviews Tuesday in the search for a marketing firm to design a new visual image for Portland State.

Vendors were asked to come up with a completely new visual identity for Portland State, that “includes logo, tagline, audience research, re-design of PSU Magazine, publication design, web design, electronic documents, stationery, visual standards guide and application guidelines for logo, color, typography, linking department names with logo, and advertising.”

Six agencies are competing for the opportunity to redesign Portland State’s visual image: The Mandala Agency, HMH, Stamats Communications, Peterson & Company, Smith Creative Group and Sockeye Creative.

Two vendors gave a two-hour presentation on the first day of interviews: The Mandala Agency of Bend and HMH of Portland. The Mandala Agency’s previous accounts include EartH2O and Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation. HMH has done work for Standard Insurance and Freightliner Trucks.

The new logo that the hired vendor will create will be used on everything from letterhead and diplomas to merchandise sold in the bookstore.

According to committee member Julie Smith, it is hoped that all departments, including athletics, will adopt the new logo. “We hope that all other PSU logos will go to the wayside and we’ll just use the new one,” she said.

The selection committee, made up of members representing several departments at PSU, students and alumni, asked the agencies to provide very specific examples of their previous work. Among the requirements from the proposal were, “A breadth of original examples that fully mirror the kind of brand-management work Portland State is seeking.”

The advertising agencies will be expected to follow up on the work done last spring by Larry Lauer and Associates of Fort Worth, Texas, who conducted an audit of Portland State to determine the effectiveness of the current marketing and communications programs. After completing the audit, Lauer then held “identity workshops” with administrators, students, faculty and alumni to ascertain which visual elements and themes were most closely associated with PSU. These terms and images were summarized in a report called “Message on a page.”

In September of this year, students were asked to complete an online survey to determine which terms and images they most associated with PSU. Among the terms that Lauer and Associates identified as being integral to Portland State’s image were “urban,” “community-centered” and “engaged.”

Images most closely identified with Portland State were “South Park blocks,” “sky bridges,” “Portland cityscape,” “green” and the “streetcar.” Over 3,500 students participated in this online survey.

Among the chief concerns of committee members was how well prospective vendors could conform to a limited budget. Other members asked why the agencies wanted to work with PSU. Ken Pearce of HMH described his agency’s relationship with the downtown community and emphasized the collaborations his firm has already had with PSU, including hiring graduates and student interns.

According to the proposal, “the object of the PSU Visual Standards program is widespread acceptance and usage.” The committee expects the agency selected to provide “a program that is attractive, flexible and easy to use.” To that end, the agency selected will be expected to do extensive testing of the new visual identity proposal. The new logo will go out to the community and the university will elicit feedback from students, faculty and alumni. Julie Smith, senior marketing and communications manager at PSU admits that this “could go over really well or it may take a long time.”

The interviews with potential vendors will continue through Thursday. Students are encouraged to attend the presentations and provide feedback via email to Julie Smith at [email protected] by Friday, Jan. 27. The committee hopes to have made its choice by Feb. 1. and expects the agency selected to begin work around Feb. 15. According to Julie Smith, the committee hopes to introduce the new logo by July of 2006, but she admits that it may take longer depending on, “how arduous a process it becomes.”